If there’s any link builder that’s jumped onto the scene of late, it’s Mike King (also known as iPullrank). Whether it’s the buzz he’s stirred up with raps at conferences, or his take on persona based link building that’s reshaped the way we attack building links through our communities, Mike has stirred up conversation and introduced us to new, unconventional tactics that have helped us rethink the way we attack link building. Luckily, he was able to join me in this week’s interviews.
I got into SEO completely by accident. I was making music full-time for a number of years and I had gotten into a pretty graphic bicycle accident in 2006 that left me with a scar on my face. Being a musician I had no health insurance and so I had to get a job to pay my medical bills. The first place to hire me was an SEO agency, but I’ve been coding since I was 12 and building sites since 1995, well before the craft split into so many sub-crafts. It’s crazy to say how many jobs came out of what was once just called “Webmaster.”
No, I have never purchased links. Just lucky to never have had to build links for a client who was so focused on the number of links. In any case that I have led a link building campaign I haven’t been under the “you only got us 40 links when you promised 100″ pressure. However I have worked places where our team leads did have to buy links, and when the JCPenney fiasco hit, I ended up being the guy that was up until 5AM sifting through the backlink profile to figure out what needs to be cleaned up.
I wouldn’t buy links because there are far too many link building strategies and tactics that are effective and scalable. Anyone who is saying you HAVE to buy links to get results is just lazy or very informed.
Personas are extremely important across the board, not just for link building. Part of why a lot of big brands don’t understand the need to SEO is that there hasn’t been much effort to make it fit into the marketing mix. Every other portion of the marketing mix starts from an analysis of the audience whether its the design of the site, the media buy, the overall digital strategy, etc. but SEO as an industry has yet to embrace that.
Using personas will further help legitimize and glue SEO to other capabilities such as UX and measurement in the eyes of people that speak of SEO in terms of “Earned Media” rather than Inbound Marketing, but most importantly they help SEOs do their jobs better. In the case of link building, it makes it real easy to speak to identify and speak to your prospects. There are so many social media tools that help you find people based on their interests and then find out what they are specifically into.
Soon enough someone will pool the features of the many tools like Followerwonk, KnowEm, AnalyzeWords, Twtrland, PeerIndex, etc. into one tool and I will be able to put in a user or interest and find out exactly what they are into, which of my persona types they fall into, and how influential they are and be able to speak to those points in a way that is contextual and far more effective than sending a random form letter. As of now, it’s what you can do by going to all of those tools with the personas in mind, but social media + personas is basically the holy grail of marketing.
I like Ontolo a lot for prospecting. There’s some things I haven’t used yet but have some incredible features such as Buzzstream, iAcquire’s iRank and Link Research Tools. I’d also love to run a campaign that uses Zemanta; I haven’t but I suggested it to some guys I work with and it’s working very well for them. I’m using a lot of social listening tools to find people speaking about my topics and to understand my audience: ScoutLabs, SocialMention, Topsy. I’m mostly doing things by hand and using productivity tools like CoTweet, Ifttt for scheduling and automating tweets of posts, Rapportive, KnowEm for finding where people are in social, Boomerang for following up on emails, FollowerWonk, Listorious, MentionMapp, Scraper for Chrome for prospecting on Twitter. And good ole Excel to keep track of it all.
The biggest mistake isn’t just one that link builders make it’s one that SEOs in general make which is not understanding both the topic, audience and/or the business objectives. We tend to just jump into things only understanding SEO and not taking into the account the bigger picture. These are typically problems of in-house or niche-based SEOs but the agency types that hop around. The first thing you need to know is what makes people interested in this topic and what type of content they are going to want to link to. Otherwise if you just go hopping through tools and not understanding who you’re talking to or why the business needs to connect with these people you shouldn’t be surprised when so few people respond to your link requests.
Context is King. Link Building is just like talking to women. Sending a form letter that basically says “I have this thing that you should like, you should link to it” will continue to be as effective walking up to a woman and saying “hey I’m hot, let’s have sex.” Speak to people with context of their interests and you will be far more effective.